Blog May 2019

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TIPS ON BOAT LINE USUAGE

Posted On: May 29, 2019

Here's some useful tips on boat lines.

By David and Zora Aiken for BoatUS

Experienced cruisers share their line on slipping a boat into its berth with stress-free grace.

Docking a boat isn't as easy as parking a car, something novice boat owners learn quickly; the helmsperson simply can't steer to a stopping point and hit the brakes. Traction is not a factor and there are outside influences the car driver never needs to consider, such as how the wind or current (or both) will alter speed or the intended direction of steering and what can be done to counteract those potentially contrary effects. Even constant repetition is no guarantee of success, as conditions are as varied as the weather.

Photo of boat tied to a dock

While there's no substitute for good boat-handling techniques, there are ways to give the captain an assist. The boat owner who rents a marina slip on an annual basis can use several medium- and low-tech ideas that offer a distinct home port advantage, making it easier and safer to leave and return to the slip and taking some of the worry out of leaving the boat to fend for itself when you're gone.

For permanent marina tenants, dock lines are left in place to drop and pick up when departing and returning. Some slips have a full-length dock (catwalk) along one side or both, perpendicular to the main dock. Floating piers almost always are configured to provide finger piers. These are the easiest slips to enter, leaving the fewest opportunities for mishaps. More common where pilings and docks are fixed is the slip with only a short, narrow — sometimes shaped like a piece of pie — finger pier leading from the main dock on one side.

Another slip may have no finger pier at all. Boarding must then be done directly at the bow or stern, and there is almost no chance for crew to jump off in time for a tie-up assist. Guiding a boat into a slip requires some expertise and the procedure differs depending on whether the captain chooses to dock the boat with bow or stern to the main dock. Once positioned in the slip, lines must be tied in such a way that the boat is convenient to the dock for boarding at the usual location, but not so close that it risks bumping the dock.

When leaving the boat unattended, most boat owners adjust all dock lines for the purpose of keeping the boat as close to mid-slip as possible through all the tide and wind changes that occur when the boat is at rest. Here are some tips for less stressful close-quarters maneuvers.

Boundary Lines

Run a line the length of your slip on each side, from the outermost piling to the dock piling or cleat, to visually define the full width of the slip and to give you a clear picture that separates your slip from your neighbor's. On days when wind and current don't cooperate when backing in, the crew can grab these lines and encourage the boat into its proper alignment. The lines also help to keep the boat from getting pushed at an angle that might result in contact with the boat in the next slip. Polypropylene line is a good choice for this purpose as it floats, and it's cheap so you won't mind replacing it every few seasons when it degrades from UV exposure.

If the slip has pilings forward and aft, the slip width is easy to define and mark. If the bow lines are ordinarily secured to cleats on the dock rather than to pilings, it may be necessary to tie the line around one of the deck planks or place an additional cleat on the dock, if the marina allows this.

Line Snubbers

When the boat is tied in a slip, it moves around with every wind shift and wake roll; abrupt jerks are common when the line is pulled as far as it can go. To minimize the jerking and the accompanying wear on lines and cleats, attach a line snubber to each dock line. Snubbers are made of a material capable of stretching enough to absorb the shock of a quick stop. With the familiar black rubber ones, the dock line feeds through an eye on one end of the snubber, then wraps around the snubber a few times before leading through the eye at the other end.

Tide Aids

TideMinders and TideSlides are helpful additions to dock line assists, definitely a "wish I'd thought of that" idea that allows dock lines to move up or down the pilings as the boat floats with the tide. With either system, there's no need to guess how much slack to leave in a line to accommodate tidal range; the boat can be tied closer to the dock without fear of it drifting too close.

TideMinders employs nine virtually indestructible balls that are threaded onto the line and secured with two figure-eight knots. As the tide changes, the balls roll up and down on the piling, eliminating the need to adjust lines and offering constant tension with built-in shock absorption. TideMinders is simple to install and requires no tools. Available in black, blue, and safety orange, they fit any size piling and protect lines up to one inch for docking larger boats.

To use TideSlides, a stainless-steel shaft attaches to a dock piling. A specially molded polymer block or cleat attaches to the stainless shaft. The dock line is tied between the TideSlide block and the appropriate cleat on the boat. As the boat floats up and down with the tidal changes, the slides (with lines attached) also move up and down the shaft, holding the same tension on the lines no matter what the state of the tide. One slider accommodates a bow or stern line and also a spring line.

Line Holders

Those who keep their boats in covered slips have created novel ways to leave bow lines when exiting the slip in order to have them handy upon return. The boathouse roof allows for suspending a bracket over the slip, ready for a boathook grab when the boat returns to the slip after a day on the water. In the photo one creative captain hung up a cutout of a traditional anchor shape.

Boats kept in a typical uncovered slip often leave bow lines on a hook or bracket attached to the dock at the front of the slip, not quite as convenient as an overhead hanging bracket, but ready for a boathook grab. Placing lines this way not only keeps them reachable, it also keeps them awayfrom feet that might trip over them, and out of the water where they could foul the running gear.

The same type of hook that holds bowlines on the dock is useful for all docking lines. Attach a hook fairly high on each dock piling, so all lines are kept high and dry and within boathook-grabbing range. Buy no-maintenance hooks made of PVC or make them out of wood or StarBoard.

Midship Cleats

If the boat doesn't have midship cleats, it would be smart to add them. They simplify the tie-up procedure, whether the boat is at home port or away. Midship cleats allow a much better lead for spring lines. They also allow the use of a shorter line, for more control, less wandering of the boat, and less risk of crew tripping over an unnecessarily long line.

On the subject of cleats, some boats have only a single cleat forward for securing bow lines; if that's the case on your boat, make the necessary changes so each bow line has its own cleat. The double-cleat arrangement also proves practical use for those times when you want to use two anchor

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MARITIME WITNESS - WHAT IS IT?

Posted On: May 22, 2019

A maritime expert witness is a person who possesses knowledge of matters relating to the construction of ships, marine shipping, or navigation and who offers this expertise in a court of law. They prepare an analysis of situations and present the information to attorneys, judges and juries. They offer general insight on the cause of an accident, reconstruct the events of an accident and determine environmental threats. They also may be called upon to analyze the cause of personal injury suits and product liability suits. 

An expert witness is a person who has specific knowledge in a given field and is called to testify in a court of law. The court permits this person to testify without having been present at the scene of the crime due to specialized training or experience in a given field. Unlike other witnesses, who are only permitted to give testimony based on observed facts, an expert witness gives technical testimony based primarily on expertise and opinions. The court allows either the prosecuting or defense attorneys to use such testimony to support claims made by the prosecution or the defense.

A maritime expert witness analyzes the cause of marine causalities and personal injuries during litigation for either the defendant or the plaintiff. An maritime expert witness may also be called to testify in environmental cases and offer analysis on the threat of hazardous materials such as lead, toxic PCBs and other toxic metals either aboard the ship or at the ship yard.

A maritime expert witness may be called upon to recreate the technical events causing an accident. An expert witness can provide testimony and analysis on the design, construction, and operations to determine the cause of the injury. A maritime expert witness is instrumental in product liability cases and can help determine whether an accident was due to faulty ship design or construction, management of the ship, or maritime operations.

Our services are available to offer expert witnesses when maritime accidents occur and the cause is unclear. An exceptional maritime expert witness service will provide the knowledge of fundamental maritime principals to advance the case and demonstrate the probable cause and effect necessary to the courts. The service will always include an analysis either supporting or defending claims and prepare reports for litigation. The analysis should cover each phase of the design, maintenance and operation of either the ship yard or the ship.

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ITS GRADUATION TIME

Posted On: May 15, 2019

IT'S THAT TIME OF THE YEAR!

Another class of students emerge into the cold reality of the world we live in.

It’s okay to be scared but don’t let it stop you

We all are scared. Even those of us who have been emerged in it for decades. But, trust me, you get used to it. Take Will Ferrell, describing his own career journey, Ferrell said he graduated in 1990 from USC with a degree in Sports Information, “a program so difficult, so arduous, that they discontinued the major eight years after I left.” Instead of going into sports broadcasting, Ferrell knew in his heart that he wanted to pursue his hobby of comedy as a full-time job.

And that came with being open to failure. Ferrell said he “didn’t utter a word” the first time he participated in the comedian-training ground of Groundings, an improv and sketch group. “Even in this moment of abject fear and total failure I found it to be thrilling to be on that stage. I then knew I wanted to be a comedic actor.” He would perform at Groundings for years until he got his first big break after being selected to join Saturday Night Live in 1995.

“And yes, I was afraid. You’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid. I was afraid to write this speech. And now, I’m just realizing how many people are watching me right now, and it’s scary. Can you please look away while I deliver the rest of the speech?” Ferrell said. “But my fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of what if. What if I never tried at all?”

Think about that a bit.

GOOD LUCK

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INVERTERS

Posted On: May 08, 2019

Inverter for boat

What Inverters Do

Inverters operate somewhat like battery chargers in reverse: they take DC power from a battery and, utilizing sophisticated circuitry, change it into 120 Volt AC current. The ship's batteries are the inverter's fuel tank and, by nature, inverters can consume a lot. They will only provide 120 Volt AC power as long as there is ample juice left in the 12 Volt batteries. It is strongly recommended that you have a separate, dedicated engine starting battery to avoid accidentally draining the entire 12v system.

Because inverters and battery chargers share certain electrical components, many models are available as combination inverter/charger units. Most automatically switch almost seamlessly to battery charger mode when plugged into shore power or if the generator is turned on, changing back almost seamlessly into an inverter mode when the AC power input is turned off. Most models have multi-stage chargers that prolong the life of your batteries by monitoring them and altering the charge rate according the battery's needs and condition. Since overcharging and poor charging are among the leading causes of death among batteries, this is an important feature. Also, some inverter chargers can be set to optimally charge specific banks. You can program them as to ambient temperature, battery temperature, bank size, battery type and other factors. This is a very desirable feature.

Larger inverter/chargers not only have smart three stage charging but can also supply very high DC charging output if needed by the batteries. This is important because, there is power lost when inverters change DC to AC, not merely in proportion to the DC generated, but also because of efficiency issues in the process. The more AC power produced by the inverter, the greater the DC loss attributable to a low efficiency. Look for the efficiency rating when buying. If you have an inverter/charger that can supply high amperage, "intelligently" to your batteries when charging, you can turn off your generator earlier and go back to quiet power.

Choosing an Inverter

Before you can select the appropriate inverter, you must first analyze your power needs, including future additions. The key is to determine the maximum amount of 120 Volt AC power you and your crew will use at any one time, keeping in mind efficiency issues and the fact that the more you use the sooner you'll discharge the battery bank if you have no charging source, such as a generator or engine alternator, running. Small inverters will operate one or two smaller appliances simultaneously. If you want to run the TV, VCR, and computer in the salon while a crew makes microwave popcorn, you'll need a larger capacity unit.

Inverters are typically rated by maximum continuous watts. The most accurate way to figure the watts you might use is to check the data plate on each 120 Volt AC appliance you plan to have on board. Be aware that some items can vary in wattage significantly depending on the setting chosen. Also note that most motor-driven equipment such as blenders and power tools draw a power surge for a few seconds at start up. Modern inverters generally accommodate such momentary surges as long as you don't switch everything on at the same time.

To determine the proper inverter size for your boat, make a list or spreadsheet of all the 120vAC equipment you will run, adding its wattage in a second column. If the appliances data plate states the power in amps, convert to watts using this formula:

Volts x Amps = Watts

i.e. an item stated at 120 volts and 3 amps will draw 360 watts.

Add the wattage of all the appliances that you want to operate simultaneously, making sure you include any items, such as a refrigerator, that run continuously. The total wattage run at one time is the minimum size inverter you should consider. However you should always purchase at least one size larger. You will probably discover more uses for your inverter after you've installed it — and if you turn too many loads on at the same time, the inverter will overheat and shut down. Also adding up power requirements on labels of devices does not include efficiency loss and loss of voltage (resulting in increased amp draw) through wire runs and possible resistance in connections and elsewhere.

We mentioned startup power surges. Transformer inverters (these have large coils of wire inside) may handle these surges better than inverters using other more sophisticated technology. But these are larger and may be considerably heavier, although the cost is usually smaller.

Choosing Batteries To Power the Inverters

Inverters depend on adequate type, size and number of ship's batteries for proper operation. To estimate the size and number of batteries you'll need, expand your list of appliance wattages by adding a third column for the amount of time you'll want to run each piece of gear in a 24-hour day. Since battery capacity is measured in amp hours, you'll need to build a forth column for adding up the amp hours required. Convert the watts to amp hours using this formula:

AC Watts ÷ 12v x 1.1 x Hours Use=Amp hours

Example: the 13" TV uses 50 watts and you want to use it 2 hours each day, so 50/12 x 1.1 x 2 = 9 amp hours. If the data plate lists AC amps rather than watts, use this formula:

AC Amps x 10 x 1.1 x Hours of Use = Amp hours.

When your chart is complete, (see example below) you will see immediately which appliances are going to pull the most juice out of the batteries. Note that it isn’t always the high draw items that cause problems — the blender may draw six times the watts of the TV, but since its use is short, the TV has a much larger total. Now is a good time to reconsider high draw items, especially those with heating elements such as toasters, hair dryers, and waffle irons. You probably will not want to run these on an inverter, rather wait until the generator is on or until you're charging your batteries with an engine driven alternator.

In our example, a total of 397 amp hours is required to meet the power needs from the inverter in 24 hours. But the inverter's draw of 12 Volt DC from the battery to supply that AC demand will be more because of the efficiency loss, the energy required by the inverter to do its job and other factors. (Your inverter specifications should give you relevant information as to this.) And you shouldn't draw down the batteries too low, and battery efficiency may be quite low depending on their age, the temperature and how well they've been charged and maintained. Therefore more battery power will be needed than the simple total. At a minimum you would want to add 50% more battery capacity for a total of 596 amp hours. Be aware that batteries age and die faster if "cycled," (discharged and recharged) frequently and even faster if cycled deeply (with deep discharges). Many battery manufacturers recommend that you double the needed capacity to avoid premature destruction of batteries — in our example this would result in a bank with 794 amp hours. There are several different types of batteries that perform well but differently. These include wetted lead acid (old fashioned but these were what powered submerged submarines before nuclear power, and still do on some subs), gel cell, AGM and others. Development of improved batteries is ongoing actively and before you buy you should investigate to learn about the latest products out there and what's most likely to suit your needs.

When constructing your appliance list, don't forget that the demands from the inverter aren't the only items your batteries have to handle. They still have to keep pace with all the 12 Volt DC users such as lights, electric head, water pumps, electronics and other systems. Also, the appliance list won't include power lost due to lack of efficiency and wire runs.

Inverter Options

Just as you monitor your car's fuel gauge, you must be aware of the status of your batteries. Most inverter manufacturers offer excellent remote panels, some with sophisticated battery monitoring systems. A few of the features available include low battery alarm, overload warnings, current in and out and the number of amp hours consumed — all on a panel mounted in a conveniently visible location.

Every amp hour drawn out of the batteries must be replaced. If your boat has a generator or you plug into shore power at the end of each day, this may be of less concern. If you anchor for more than a few days without a generator, however, methods of replacing the batteries' expended juice must be considered. High-output alternators on the main engine, wind generators and solar panels can all be arranged to keep the system supplied with enough energy, depending on your usage. Although remember that running the main engine for long periods of time merely to power the high output alternator isn't very good because there isn't sufficient load on the engine.

All inverter installations require a large, dedicated 12 Volt fuse in the main power line from the battery to the inverter. Be sure to purchase the correct fuse block and fuse with the inverter — it's always wise to carry a spare fuse if you plan a long term cruise. It is very important to follow carefully all the instructions in installation and operating the inverter. Larger inverters can consume a lot of DC power at times, and the wiring must be as specified by the manufacturer, not only to promote efficiency, but also to avoid fires and melt downs. A good unit will have a thorough set of instructions. Remember also that AC power from an inverter can cause fatal electric shock, just as it can if it's the shore power or generator. Proper wiring and circuit breakers and all other aspects of installation and operation, according to applicable ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) standards is important. And post warnings in appropriate places that, although the boat isn't "plugged in" wires and components may still be hot with AC current.

Technology, knowledge and practices change almost daily therefore it is prudent to research for the very latest up to the date information and seek qualified professional assistance when needed.

 

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WORKING FROM YOUR BOAT

Posted On: May 01, 2019


Sometimes, being able to take care of professional and personal business while on your boat can give you more freedom and peace of mind. Here's advice about improving communications aboard.

We've lived, cruised, and worked aboard our boats since 1979, so our office capabilities are probably more complex than those of other cruisers. But through trial and error, we've learned solutions to many communications issues that arise while working aboard. More and more boaters are doing it, whether it's a flex day, weekend home work, or just keeping up while on vacation. What we've learned may help you to tailor your "onboard office" to fit your needs.

Office Power

I've found that a stable, pure-sine-wave power supply is critical for my office "equipment" such as computer and printer. This may be somewhat less of an issue with a laptop because its battery provides some buffering protection from power failures and surges, but you'll still have issues with peripherals such as a printer/scanner or router. Even power from the dock is suspect. If somebody trips over your power cord or unplugs or jiggles it, the resultant surges can be devastating to equipment you have plugged in and turned on. Generator power, even from good units, is likely to have surges. On Chez Nous we address this problem with what has proven over the years to be a very effective system.

My office "station" is supplied by current from a dedicated true sine wave inverter. An inverter will change DC current from a battery bank to AC current. Some inverters (less expensive ones) put out AC current in a modified sine wave. While this type of current will run many things, it won't run some equipment (most scanners, for example), and it could be, in the long term, damaging to other equipment even though it seems to be working satisfactorily at the moment.

The inverter is "dedicated" because when external AC (shore or generator power) becomes available, some inverters will automatically and almost seamlessly stop inverting and begin passing through that external AC power. To avoid passing through potentially corrupted AC from the docks or the generator to our sensitive office equipment, we use a PROsine inverter by Xantrex exclusively for the computer station. It's wired only to the batteries, not to a feed from our AC system. We use another larger PROsine 2.0 as our primary battery charger and the supplier of AC throughout the rest of the boat, when there is no generator or shore power. It also passes through dock or generator power, when it's available, to that less-sensitive equipment.

When purchasing an inverter, check for its efficiency rating during the inversion process. The more efficient it is, the less battery power it'll consume. Some inverters use a transformer; some use other more sophisticated technology. The transformer inverters are generally heavier and less expensive. They may have a higher surge capacity, but this probably won't be needed for office usage.

Photo of man using a desktop computer aboard his boat

Tom prefers desktops onboard as in this USACE survey vessel. They're easier to get into to change components such as memory, drives, video cards, and powerpacks.

Connectivity

Getting online while onboard is relatively easy and reliable these days, especially along most of the US coast. I'm not referring to devices such as iPads and smart phones. Often to perform your work, you need internet connectivity to a computer with which you can type documents, work with spreadsheets, print, and so on. We use an air card with Verizon Wireless service. For us, Verizon has the best overall coverage for broadband speeds. Most areas along the East Coast have Verizon 3-G coverage and their 4-G coverage is slowly spreading in the highly populated areas. When considering a wireless data carrier, the coverage footprint is important. You can get relatively inexpensive plans for unlimited data, but these are often limited by the fact that you must remain close to your home base or close to certain high population areas. If you're only going to stay within a small radius close to home, another carrier may provide a better option, depending on your location. But, if you want to move around more, you'll probably have to pay more to get broader wireless data coverage. What you need depends on where you want to work and what's available in that area, as well as the amount of data you'll need. We pay Verizon $60 a month for their 5-GB service but this covers a huge footprint, including most of the East Coast.

We could pay Verizon $50 a month for the same amount of data but we'd have to use a MiFi device. We don't use this because we use two computers. The MiFi and other similar products will serve several computers but only by retransmitting your carrier's data signal via Wi-Fi. This can be disrupted by other boat electronics equipment such as radar, inverters, SSB, and VHFs. Therefore we use a Cradlepoint MBR 1000 router into which we can insert our older USB air card (www.cradlepoint.com, or www.3gstore.com). It too will retransmit that signal via Wi-Fi, but it (and similar devices) also allows us to connect with LAN cables, which avoid shipboard Wi-Fi issues. This company and others also market other cellular routers that may be more appropriate for your needs. By press time, other better hardware and plans will be available.

You may be able to avoid the high expense of a data plan and equipment by hanging out in Wi-Fi hot spot areas if you don't mind this geographical limitation. Most marinas offer complimentary Wi-Fi service and you can often find hot spots that work from anchorages. Some require you to pay a fee; some don't. Some towns and businesses offer free Wi-Fi that includes the harbor, but we've found many of these services to be unreliable. With sufficient speed (and not too many people sharing the transmitter) you may be able make phone calls using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. There are numerous Wi-Fi signal enhancers that you can purchase from retailers such as office-supply stores. These can be very helpful bringing in a weak hot spot signal.

If you don't want to hang out in Wi-Fi hotspots and want to travel to more remote anchorages with questionable coverage, you can enhance data reception of air cards and related equipment, including cell phones, by signal boosters. Cell-phone towers are often oriented to the land. We use a cell-phone antenna made by Digital Antenna, (www.DigitalAntenna.com), a company specializing in enhancing mobile communications. The antenna is mounted as high as possible – in our case, atop our mizzen mast. Down inside the boat, we also use their DA 4000SBR amplifier that boosts the signal received by the antenna. The amplifier is connected to a small antenna mounted in the boat. It's like our own mini cell-phone tower. This greatly increases our cell phone voice and data coverage. (Use the wire and connections they recommend, because inferior equipment can significantly diminish signal.) We only get air cards that have an external antenna port so that we have the option of direct wiring an external antenna to the device if needed. This helps significantly in some areas.

If you plan to visit places such as the Bahamas and the Caribbean, your U.S. cell phone and air card may not be compatible with all offshore systems. This is changing rapidly and the "right" equipment today may be outdated by press time. If you're headed to a cruising destination away from the U.S., wait until shortly before you really need to buy this equipment, then ask the experts as well as other cruisers. As an example, Ocens (www.ocens.com) is used by many long-distance cruisers as an experienced, one-stop-shop company that can help with what you need for your particular application.

Traveling farther offshore, you need other equipment. You can get online almost anywhere in the ocean via satellite using equipment from KVH (www.kvh.com). Prices have come down for this equipment. This can give you Internet access from the middle of nowhere, but also TV and music, and voice access. It's also possible to send email via SSB with the right equipment. Interested? Google terms such as "email SSB." Compression programs can help with this methodology. However, we've found SSB to be unsuitable for our purposes, which include long emails with attachments and Internet surfing.

Man At Work

Tom Neale works full time, at "home," which for the past 32 years has been his motorsailer, Chez Nous, on which he and his wife Mel have lived full time. Here's how he's set up his office.

On Chez Nous, we established an office space with an unused extra bed in the aft stateroom. We ditched the mattress and built a desk that slides in and out at the forward end of the bed, leaving the after end for office storage. There's a hatch for cheering sunlight, but because my office is in the stern of the boat it seldom gets spray. A small but comfortable and adjustable office chair minimizes fatigue. If Mel is at the helm and I'm in the office, we talk with each other via intercom. We use plastic file boxes for paper storage. They fit into unlikely spaces and we can keep files that we'd normally carry ashore in one "House/Boat" box so that we don't have to worry about sorting through papers when we start or finish our cruise.

I've found that it's critical to have a quiet place dedicated to my "office" work. A loud space next to, say, the engine creates fatigue and makes phone conversations difficult. A location in the bow may be uncomfortable when you're underway. A navigation station already has a desk, but if it's immediately inside an entrance you may find it hard to concentrate, and your equipment may suffer from spray, salty moisture, and sunlight.

My Computer Of Choice

Most of my boat computers have been desktops. They're easier to get into to change components such as memory, drives, video cards, and power packs. Warranty service does little good if we're in a beautiful anchorage in paradise. But if I can replace a part myself, I'm likely to be able to save the day. Some newer laptops are easier to access than older ones; most are still challenging.

A desktop tower can be tucked into a nook or cranny, with only the monitor and keyboard taking desk space. Also, depending upon the layout of your boat and location of your "office space," you may be able to use the same desktop tower for navigation programs.

An advantage of a laptop is that you can take it home and spare it from the excessive heat and humidity aboard while you're ashore. If you use wireless peripherals such as a mouse, keyboard, and printer, shipboard electrical "noise" may interfere with them depending on location and equipment.

Buy only computers that come with repair, recovery, and program disks. This can be critical should you have a major failure. You may not be able to download fixes while cruising. Invest in a good Internet security program and familiarize yourself with the computer's onboard self-diagnostic tools. Obviously smartphones, Apps, iPads, and the like are dramatically changing the scenery. But if you need to type a lot or do extensive Internet research, a traditional computer may be your best tool.

Digitization

Digitalization has vastly improved my ability to do business from our boat. An inexpensive small printer/copier/scanner enables me to scan papers that I then store on a hard drive and backup devices. Scanning each "keeper" document as it comes in means it's always with us if we need backup. And I can print out documents sent to us as email attachments, sign them, scan them back in, and return them by email, saving a digital copy. In the old days, this exchange, with mailed paper, could have taken a month or more.

I back up all my work aboard onto at least one flash drive and put it in my pocket when we leave the boat. If you keep a computer aboard, this would enable you to copy your work to your home computer. If you transport a laptop back and forth, the flash drive is still invaluable if you carry it with you when you leave your boat unattended. And many times, as we've expected severe weather or other problems, we've placed our flash drives into our waterproof Pelican ditch box.

We Don't Leave Home Without It

Before we go on a cruise of any length or distance, we look ahead and determine the documents we need to take with us. It's important to consider events such as maturity dates, tax dates, or documents that may require an original or notarized signature. Talk with the professionals with whom you may have to interface while away, explaining your situation. This takes more time than expected. The "real world" won't stop just because we're in transit aboard our boat. But the good news is that we've found that planning ahead and the right office aboard has set us free.

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